[ExI] The silent PV revolution

Mirco Romanato painlord2k at libero.it
Mon Apr 9 16:55:48 UTC 2012

Il 09/04/2012 11:51, Eugen Leitl ha scritto:
> On Mon, Apr 09, 2012 at 01:06:53AM -0600, Kelly Anderson wrote:
>> You are right to a point. When the government unnaturally props up
>> renewables, it is a scam. When the marketplace needs renewables, then
>> it is not. One day, perhaps in the not too distant future according to
>> some very smart people, solar photovoltaics will be economically
>> competitive with coal. When it is, then it will no longer be a scam.
> I don't understand the full intricacies of
> http://cleantechnica.com/2012/04/06/its-here-solar-renewable-grid-parity-or-better-in-californias-latest-renewable-power-auction/ 
> but it indicates that grid parity in California has happened,
> or is about to happen.

As usual the devil is in the details and if you are not sceptical enough
and don't know where to look, you will not see the details.
But you could anyway only read the title and make your mind and skip the
article and the critical analysis of it.

The reason the article can not be used to argue for a real parity grid
rate is:
1) the rate paid for feed in (8.9 cent) is lower of the feed out rate
paid by the grid customers (15 cent) because there is no accounting for
the costs of distribution of the power, the maintenance of the grid,
profit and so on.

2) looking here (
http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUC/energy/Renewables/Feed-in+Tariff+Price.htm ),
the PV parity is true if compared with a MPR (MPR is the predicted
annual average cost of production for a combined-cycle natural gas fired
baseload proxy plant).

Gas baseload proxy plants are used to compensate for the lack of energy
production from intermittent "renovables" like solar and wind.
For every MW of power installed with solar or wind you need another MW
of gas burning plants ready to go online when the sun set (or the wind
stop). So your up front investment is "solar" + "gas" and you need
forever to amortize both together. This is the main reason the Danes
stopped to finance wind power (and they could use Germany to dump their
power in someone else grid)

So, yes, now solar power cost the same/less than the backup power needed
to make solar usable in a grid.

3) solar is mainly an up-front investment with little running costs
(yes, sunshine is free and you hope to not use gas much), so after the
upfront money is spent (in the PV plant and the gas plant), whatever the
price the managers of the PV power plants (not the homeowners with PV
panels) are able to receive is better than nothing. If it cover the
running costs and allow you to recover the investment you are very happy.

> Many people are unaware that electricity is traded in large-scale,
> realtime markets. Peak demand carries peak price, while low
> demand (at night) at high plant thermal inertia. Because
> of this e.g. 4% of PV in Germany result in 40% of peak
> price reduction. This is bad for power utilities, good
> for large consumers and neutral for small consumers, who
> do not enjoy the bargaining power that large industry
> consumers have.

> So the question "when is X competitive with Y" is not very 
> meaningful. You have to add where and when, and for whom.

And how much.

As this chart show (just as an example) the peak of electricity use
often is not near the peak of PV electricity production. Maybe sometimes
it is, often it is not. So you need to  fire the damned gas plants. This
peak also change with the seasons along with the electricity use (it
easily could double during summer).

So the peak in summer don't happen at the same time the peak in winter
and the power requested in summer peak is not the same requested in
winter peak. So you have your broken clock effect, where PV is perfect
for a couple of random days every year. In the others you need to fire
the gas.

When the big utilities lose their profit from peak demand, they simply
will (in the end) raise their base load prices to cover the losses (and
some). PV is not and will not (in the foreseeable future) be anywhere
near to cover the baseload energy demand in a reliable way. Nothing
wrong in this. The problem is when the PV plants are financed with
taxpayers/consumers money and then cause a raise of the baseload prices
they must directly or indirectly pay. For example, industrial bread oven
use electricity, so people will pay more for the food.

>> But until the market is asking for it naturally and on it's own,
>> without provocation from the government, then you'll see it become
>> real. For now, with government driven Ponzi schemes falling apart all
>> over the world, it looks like more of a joke than it ever has been
>> before.

> I can tell you the local utilities don't think it's a joke at all.
> They're in fact shitting bricks and lobby like the dickens to
> kill FITs yesteryear, so to stop further increase in PV deployment
> that is eating into their profits.

My opinion is their are worried about needing to raise the baseload
prices to cover for the loss of peak prices and much more worried to the
effects this will have on their baseload customers (like the before
mentioned industries). Many of them could be driven off the market by
increasing baseload costs. And this will eat in the utilities profits.

>> When you have companies like Solera getting a half a billion dollars
>> from the government, spending it, then going out of business, it's
>> easy to get skeptical. But I would encourage you to point your

> Many inefficient companies get bankrupt. 
> Ability to fail is what makes markets work.

Fail and grow alone for sure.
Fail and grow because of taxes, subsides and regulations a lot less.

>> point that we can make it pay for more and more people. Eventually, I
>> think it will be profitable for all of us, and at that point it will
>> be ubiuqitous, and we'll wonder why didn't people ALWAYS do it this

> That's what I keep wondering for 30 years now. And yet we're still
> having this conversations on this list, as if renewables were optional,
> nice-to-have instead of a basic survival tool when brutal energy hunger
> hits. Remember that we're on track for the "base case" scenario in
> Limits to Growth. How people can serenely sail into that near future
> never ceases to amaze me.

The current policies of the ECB, Fed.Reserve, Bank of Japan and likes
are the main danger we have in our future. They are able to destroy the
economy to save the banks and the governments.

Egypt will starve because its peasants were prevented from investing in
better agricultural equipments and education.

The problem rarely is the lack of resources, often it is the politicians
and the policies.

>> way. The answer is the same as to why haven't they always built CPUs
>> as fast as they are today... it takes engineering and science, and

> Hardly a valid comparison. PV goes back to 1839, Si technology of
> 1955 with 1500 USD/Wp with 2% does not differ in its mode of function 
> from mono Si of today with 17% and <1 USD/Wp. It's all a question
> of production efficiency and economy of scale.

Easy to say, a bit different to do.
It is like telling the Ford T and the Prius are not so different, just
production efficiency and economy of scale. Take away the Green
Revolution and probably the Prius would not be possible, because people
would spend more money to eat and would have less to drive.

> Interestingly, fuel cells also go back to 1838, and we still don't
> have affordable fuel cells for home and propulsion.

ICE engines come from the same times.

>> that takes time and builds on past successes.

But someone think he can fast forward what he want without fast
forwarding the whole economy organically.


More information about the extropy-chat mailing list